Flavorful Character

Daryl Hawkins (left) helps his wife Nancy Black Hawkins (right) set up and break down parties. “She wants everything to be memorable,” he says. “All we have is our memories” she replies.

There are a lot of things to like about Nancy Black Hawkins and her upstart Kayter 2 You catering company (521-8722), starting with her big laugh, outsized personality and never-met-a-stranger style.

There’s her full outdoor fish fry parties with deep-fried catfish, snapper, calamari and hot shrimp in secret-recipe batter, plus fries and coleslaw, in parks or backyards, splashed with homemade “Sha-Zamm” hot sauce. There’s her full-blown taco service with carne asada, carnitas and chicken done over a Blackstone grill, next to the nacho bar with freshly fried tortilla chips and her own ceviche. There’s her “Fancy Nancy” chicken and waffles – “that’s my favorite,” she says – when she totes along waffle irons and two deep fryers, more Sha-Zaam sauce, berry syrups, collard greens and your choice of dirty rice, Cajun rice, “jambalaya” rice and/or red beans and rice (catering starts around $12/person for at least 25).

There’s her proudly born-and-raised-in-Seaside-and-Marina background, and roots that reach back through years spent watching – and helping – her mother, uncle and grandmother do everything from bake 100 sweet potato pies to stir a melting pot of influences together in a big family party. “I would hang out in the kitchen,” she says. “I just got a passion for food art and cooking.”

Her versatility comes partly from the vast diversity her family encompassed. “We have so many different nationalities,” she says. “I have my Filipino side of the family, the Spanish side, just a lot of different influences.”

Then there’s her blue-collar instincts. After more than 30 years working in food service, largely in butcheries, one of the first things she says when we meet is, “I cut so much meat.” We’re talking T-bones, ribeyes, rib roast, bottom rounds, top sirloin, London broil, New York steak, hamburger meat, stir fry meat.

“We cut from the pasture to the plate,” she says. “The rooter to the tooter.”

She currently runs the meat department at Lucky’s in Pacific Grove, and is not about to stop, at least not until she retires, which is scheduled for 2025. But she’s not letting that delay her dreams.

She has recently embarked on a mission to take her 10-year habit of catering weddings, funerals and special events and officially make it her next career. Her new Dodge Ram ProMaster van is now wrapped with her K-with-a-knife logo and all sorts of slogans. Her website is up and running. (“To live well, you must eat well,” www.kayter2you.com announces.) She’s trumpeting her ability to do kosher, Asian and dietary-mindful spreads. She’s scheming “Big Fun in a Little Bun” slider parties – her hopes include Seaside’s Blues in the Park – with bacon-cheese, Swiss-mushroom, jalapeño-pineapple and “famous Juicy Lucy” treatments.

“I have planted the seed and together we will watch it grow,” she says.

Last weekend she held an afternoon “grand opening” at the Moose Lodge at Canyon Del Rey in Del Rey Oaks. Her “buffet-in-a-cup” offerings, with everything from shrimp cocktail to brownie-strawberry medleys, were a hit.

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Gilbert Rojas of Gonzales has worked with her at Lucky’s since the 1990s. “She has a passion,” he says. “She creates a good atmosphere and is just good at what she does. She’s someone who likes to do food.”

Noon-6pm Fridays and 2-8pm Sunday starting Jan. 20, she’ll do some of that with a fish fry at the VFW in Seaside ($10-$12/plate).

Like Rojas says, “She wants to make people happy.” Mission accomplished.

~ QUICKBITES ~

  • Local food truck The Choke Coach, normally seen parked at Pezzini Farms in Castroville, is introducing its own restaurant at the Salinas Airport called The Flying Artichoke. More info on the blog.
  • Poké Bar management and Marina Dunes developer Scott Negri are trying to keep it quiet for reasons that aren’t all that apparent, but the popular chain is coming to the shopping complex some time this spring. More on the blog, www.mcweekly.com/edible.
  • Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards is on the rocks with its landlord and the city alike but fighting to stay open. More on p. 12. This comes after The Giant Artichoke closed earlier this month.
  • A private ribbon cutting at Pacific’s Edge happens Thursday, Jan. 11, to introduce the reinvented restaurant. The most wow-worthy items: the sparkling new dining deck (with dramatic views and beveled glass) and new Sunset Lounge bar (which rotated 180 degrees to look over the Pacific). Then there’s the Big Sur Foragers Fest special event Bonny DoonVineyard wine dinner Friday, Jan. 12 (think caramelized porcini mushroom risotto with winter truffle and Matsutake mushroom steaks).
  • Speaking of, Big Sur Forager’s Fest is here Jan. 13-15 (with a peek on p. 30). Meanwhile the 2017 Fungus Fair is Jan. 13-15 at Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz.
  • Monterey Bay Dungeness crab fisherman are having a slow go of it, making fresh local crab scarce. More on p. 12.
  • The one and only EcoFarm visits Asilomar Conference Grounds for its 37th annual summit of conscious farming Jan. 25-28. Paul Stamets, best known for his TED talk on “Six ways mushrooms can save the world,” ranks among the headliners. Epic tastings too. More at www.ecofarm.org.
  • The eighth annual Culinary Round-Up, featuring scores of all-star chefs and local wineries, to benefit Rancho Cielo’s inspired intervention programs, happens Sunday, Jan. 22, at Monterey Plaza Hotel ($99-$169, 444-3533 or www.ranchocielo.org).
  • The folks at 201 Main are doing a little first of the year housekeeping. Giorgio’s reopens Friday, Jan. 13. Ticino is back Feb. 1 with what it’s touting as an “exciting new menu.”
  • The nominees for the 2016 Seventh Annual John “Spud” Spadaro Award are GM Alfredo Ortiz (Whaling Station Steakhouse), bartender Regina Morrison (Beach House Restaurant + Bar) and concierge Lori Carter (Carriage House Inn). Presentation happens Jan. 20, with a Sicilian steak dinner ($25, 373-1285) at the Monterey Elks Lodge.
  • Patria in Oldtown Salinas (424-5555) is back post-holiday with normal dinner hours (5pm-close Tuesday-Sunday) but no more lunch service.
  • Junior League of Monterey’s 15th annual Crab Feed cracks Saturday, Feb. 4, at San Carlos Hall ($60 through Jan. 20, www.jlmontereycounty.org/estore). American Legion Post 41 in Monterey (375-9015) holds its own Saturday, Jan. 28 ($50).
  • Frank’s Fish Market will close to pave the way for a new Salinas train station. More on the blog.
  • Follow @MontereyMCA on Twitter and Instagram.
  • BottleRock Napa Valley (May 26-28) has announced its lineup, which includes Tom PettyFoo FightersMacklemore and Modest Mouse, www.bottlerocknapavalley.com.
  • Revival Ice + Cream furnishes buttered popcorn and caramel ice cream for Osio Theater ($5).
  • Pebble Beach Food & Wine is on the horizon: April 20-23, www.pbfw.com.
  • National Steinbeck Center in Oldtown Salinas is free through Jan. 15.
  • Grocery Outlet in Seaside carries $3.99 caviar.
  • Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

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